What is a good broadband speed?

Is your broadband speed up to the test?

Broadband speeds up and down the country vary greatly, and for a number of reasons. 

Whether you use the internet to browse, stream or game, watching a buffering pinwheel rotate round and round for what can sometimes feel like forever is an extremely frustrating experience.

Let’s take a look at the state of broadband in the UK to try and put a finger on whether or not the broadband speed you are getting is any good.

What’s the average broadband speed in the UK? 

What’s the average broadband speed in the UK? 

To answer the question “What is a good download speed” we need to look at the average broadband download speed in the UK. 

Earlier this year Ofcom published an annual study into fixed line broadband speeds. Just 8% were found to have speeds of less than 10Mbps and 78% of people were on some kind of “superfast” product with download speeds above 30Mbps. Only 5% had a broadband speed of 300Mbps or more. 

What makes a good broadband download speed? 

Your broadband speed does depend on your broadband product, but only to a certain degree. 

The most common network people are on is the Openreach Network. If you use any of the following broadband providers, you are also on the Openreach Network:

  • BT
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Plusnet
  • NOW Broadband
  • Vodafone
  • EE

The above Openreach providers are fibre broadband providers. The Openreach Network runs fibre cable from a telephone exchange all the way to a green cab near you. Your broadband is then served from the green cab all the way to your home via a copper phone wire. This is known as ADSL fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband. 

ADSL broadband can be great for some and poor for others. Why? Because ADSL broadband relies on you being close to the green cabinet for a fast broadband speed. The further away you are from your green cab, the further your broadband has to travel, resulting in a much slower broadband speed! 

Provided there is space on a closer green cabinet, you could ask for a cease and reprovide to a closer green cabinet, but in all honesty this is very unlikely to happen. 

A cease and reprovide means stopping your service altogether, and providing your service from a closer cabinet, which will often leave you without broadband for around 10 days, but it could be for longer. 

Alternative providers for better speed

Alternate providers for better broadband speed

The next best thing to FTTC broadband is fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband, which brings a fibre cable straight to your home, skipping out the copper phone wire. FTTP broadband from Openreach providers is a rare service, but can reach speeds of up to 900Mbps should it be available in your location. 

However, there are suppliers who use their own network, such as Virgin, offering superior speeds when compared to the product standard FTTC broadband Openreach providers provide.

Virgin uses its own coaxial cable network, which offers speeds up to 516Mbps with Virgin’s Virgin Media M500 package. While not quite reaching the heights fibre optic cabling has to offer, Virgin’s coaxial network gives consumers a choice of significantly faster speeds than the FTTC ADSL broadband most broadband consumers find themselves using today. 

Virgin Media is not available in every location, however, so it might not be a viable alternative for you.

What’s a good broadband speed for streaming? 

A good broadband speed for streaming entirely depends on the content you’ll be watching.

You’ll need a minimum of 5Mbps to watch 720p or 1080p HD programmes or films, and anything above is a bonus. 

For the high-end 4K streaming, you need to have a broadband speed of at least 25Mbps. 

What’s a good broadband speed for gaming? 

What's a good broadband speed for gaming?

Obviously as fast as you can get, but there’s got to be a cut off, right?

For a smooth gaming experience with no interruptions, you’re going to want to have at least 20Mbps. With a 20Mbps broadband speed you’ll experience few problems and will generally have a smooth gaming experience with little lag. Anything less than 20Mbps isn’t ideal, and less than 15Mbps you’ll start to encounter some problems. 

Where you will notice a big difference in your gaming with a higher download speed is when you come to update and install new games. The higher your speed, the quicker you’ll be able to play your new and most recently updated games. 

What is making my broadband speed worse?

Even if you have a decent broadband speed, you could be hindering your streaming and gaming experience.

Clogging up your router with lots of devices could be making you suffer, even if said devices aren’t in use, items such as phones and tablets will still be consuming bandwidth if apps are running in the background. Either turn log into your router via a browser, or just switch the WiFi option off on them and it should make a difference. 

If you’re trying to game or watch Netflix and notice your internet is not up to speed, it might be because someone else is also using the internet - your broadband speed can slow considerably when there are various users on it. Surfing the web has a minimal impact on your speed, but streaming services affect it greatly. 

How can I improve my broadband speed?

Upgrading your subscription with the same supplier if you have poor broadband speed will not improve your speed - as we have mentioned above, this is dependent on your distance from the green cabinet you are served off of. 

Alternatively, you can switch network providers altogether, and move from Openreach (BT, Sky, Plusnet etc) to another network, such as Virgin Media, which guarantees much faster speeds. But, if Virgin isn’t available in your area, you could try 4G boosting.

If you’re not satisfied with the speeds you are getting from your hub, some providers do give you the option to “boost” your WiFi with the 4G network, but that only works if you receive a strong 4G signal in your area. This works by having 4G signal “back up” your slow WiFi speed, kicking in and picking up the slack when you need a faster, more secure internet connection. For example, BT offers the Hybrid Connect, which uses to EE mobile network to support your home WiFi network. 

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